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Terms to designate groups for women

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Are you founding a women geeks group? Then you'll probably need a name. Here are some words/terms/names you could use to show that it is for women.

When choosing a name, it's important to be welcoming to trans women and not just cis women. Additionally, if you want to include genderqueer and/or non-binary-identified people who aren't male in your organization, it's worth thinking about how to choose a name that is inclusive.

WomenEdit

Examples:

Pros:

  • Probably the most neutral term available now. Less polarizing than other terms.
  • Very inclusive to adult women, especially ages 25-120
  • Common on restroom signs
  • Recommended in journalism by AP Stylebook

Cons:

  • Doesn't rhyme with anything
  • Younger women and teenagers don't necessarily associate themselves with the term
  • Can feel overly formal and businesslike

LadiesEdit

Examples:

Pros:

  • Commonly reappropriated in hip-hop feminism, e.g. Ladies First by Queen Latifah. Has come back into vogue in recent years [2][3]
  • Can be fun in a retro, ironic way, e.g. "Single Ladies" by Beyoncé
  • Commonly used on restroom signs in some places, esp. multicultural urban areas
  • More casual and playful than "women"
  • Commonly used by college-aged women who might not identify with the term "woman" yet. Widely used by sororities. [3]

Cons:

  • Offensive in some places and contexts [4]
  • Can feel overly old-fashioned
  • Can feel classist
  • "Woman" preferred over "lady" in journalism. AP Stylebook says, "lady: Do not use as a synonym for women. Lady may be used when it is a courtesy title or when a specific reference to fine manners is appropriate without patronizing overtones." [5]
  • Association with the correct manners, and gendered rules: e.g. ladylike.

FemaleEdit

Examples:

Pros
  • Age-inclusive
  • Inclusive of people who don't feel practically feminine even though they identify as female.
Cons
  • Often considered disrespectful or demeaning in modern usage. [4]
  • Can be exclusive to trans women due to use by trans-excluding radical feminists to refer exclusively to cis women.

GirlsEdit

Examples:

Pros:

  • concise
  • appropriate for groups intended for ages 5-18

Cons:

  • Off-putting/infantilising to some women
  • Used widely in sexualizing contexts, can lead to undesirable web search results
  • professional women in male-dominated fields may have strong association between being called a girl and sexist (micro)aggression
  • Can be confusing to actual intent of audience
  • often paired with "men", making a mix of adult and child words. e.g. "you can choose from men's tshirts, or girl's tshirts". see also T-shirts

GrrlsEdit

Examples:

Pros:

  • Rad 90s RiotGrrl zine vibe

Cons:

  • Similar to 'girls', can be off-putting to women
  • Can be alienating
  • suitability limited to contexts where a read rad 90s RiotGrrl zine vibe is relevant

GalsEdit

Examples:

Pros:

  • Casual, fun

Cons:

  • Similar to 'girls', can be off-putting to women
  • Trivialising? Depends on purpose of the group

Chicks/ChixEdit

Examples:

Pros:

  • Fun, casual, and light-hearted. Playful.
  • Fun and empowering to reclaim the word.
  • Common in women's tech group names. Easily identifiable as a fun technical women's group.

Cons:

  • Pretty 90s.
  • "Chicks" is a trivialising and somewhat sexualized term for women. So using it has the pros/cons of reclamation.
  • Can be embarrassing or accidentally offensive to say aloud because it sounds like saying "chicks," e.g. sounds like saying, "Are you going to the Linux Chicks meetup?"
  • If referred to by a man verbally, it can cause accidental insult, e.g. "You're a Dev Chick, right?"

DollsEdit

Examples:

Pros/Cons:

  • Very informal
  • Dolls are actually objects, not people.

SistersEdit

Examples:

  • Systers
  • CSters (a university group)

Pros:

  • Not necessarily too casual
  • Age-inclusive at both ends
  • Not classist or dated
  • Free of solid association to the trivializing, sexualizing, objectifying use of words like 'girls' or 'chicks'.

Cons:

  • Suggests a level of closeness that may be offputting for a casual group.

Feminist Edit

See also Explicitly feminist geek groups

Examples:

Pros:

  • explicitly claims a feminist space
  • does not exclude feminists who aren't women

Cons:

DivasEdit

Pros:

  • fun and casual
  • does not exclude non-cis women

Cons:

  • may be alienating to women who do not identify as 'divas' and/or traditionally feminine
  • may be alienating to women who want to be taken seriously
  • may take the attention from the actual content to associations with the word 'diva' (melodrama, physical appearance, grand personas)
  • negative term for self-centered, overly dramatic people.

BroadsEdit

Examples:

Pros:

  • casual
  • short
  • lends itself to puns

Cons:

  • outdated
  • offensive term in certain spheres.

Identity references Edit

Examples:

  • Lesbians Who Tech

Pros:

  • Explicitly includes women of that identity
  • Can include other people if the group desires
  • Can exclude women who are not of that identity in order to focus on the unique intersecting issues of being a woman with that identity in tech

Cons:

  • Excludes women who are not of that identity (who are in other under-served populations), if only by implication
  • Even if the group's rules include other people, the name may discourage people (in other under-served populations) who would be welcomed if they joined, from doing any further research on the group

Womyn Edit

Seen in feminist literature and as a self-identification

Pros:

  • Symbolically removes dependence on men/males

Cons:

  • Not usually taken seriously
  • May be taken as a claim of radical feminism
  • Term is widely used by Trans-Exclusive Radical Feminists and is strongly associated with Transmisogynistic bigotry

Unicorns Edit

From the unicorn law, ie, female geeks supposedly being as rare/mythical as a unicorn.

Examples:

  • The Haecksen miniconf doesn't use it as a name, but has made considerable use of unicorn logos.

Pros:

  • Lends itself well to visuals.
  • Fun, different.
  • Non-obvious connection to feminism.
  • Unicorns/horses/ponies are somewhat feminine-coded: embracing feminine-coded symbols can be powerful

Cons:

  • The term is not well known outside the geek feminism community, and therefore can confuse or alienate people.
  • Not explicitly about women.
  • Haecksen found that some men missed the irony and were encouraged to actually treat women like unicorns: ie, to photograph them and exclaim over a coveted "unicorn" sighting.
  • You will sometimes be mistaken for a pop culture fan group (eg, for My Little Ponies)

Mother/MomEdit

Examples:

Pros/Cons:

  • Only a good idea if explicitly for mothers and that is relevant to the group
  • Terms for female parent vary widely even within english speaking cultures. Words like mum, mom, mama, noni, nan etc  are coded to narrow group who use that term.

She/Her (female pronouns)Edit

Examples:

Pros:

  • concise
  • clear
  • encompasses all who identify with the pronouns she/her
  • about as little sexist/infantilising/classist/generational schemata as possible

Cons:

  • use of the word 'her' can produce phrases that are objectifying on the grammatical level
  • may produce names that sound more like phrases than names

Miss/Ms/Mrs (female titles) Edit

Examples:

Pros:

  • Short.

Cons:

  • Can feel classist and dated.
  • Can feel overly formal.
  • Negative connotations if used to formulate a woman-specific version of a gender-neutral name.
  • Has baggage from a history of women being required to declare their marital status publicly via their title, while men do not.

XX Edit

Pros:

  • Biology reference

Cons:

  • Inherently chromosomal-essentialist: implies that all people with XX chromosomes are women, and that no one without XX chromosomes are women.

Abbreviation that uses one of the above terms Edit

Examples:

  • WoMoz, short for "Women & Mozilla"

Pro:

  • If you can make a nice acronym it can work well

Con:

  • Can be obscure

Name reference to a famous woman in the field Edit

Pros:

  • Different.
  • Works against erasure, dismissal, and ignorance of women's historical importance in the field.
  • Suits familiar naming conventions for institutions and such.

Cons:

  • May be too obscure if you choose a lesser-known name.
  • May not be that different if you choose a well-known name.
  • May be long.

Borrowing from other languagesEdit

Examples:

Pros:

  • Valid choice for events/groups held in languages other than English

Cons:

  • Obscure for an English audience
  • Potentially appropriative

No gender connotation at allEdit

Examples:

Pros:

  • Lots of flexibility
  • Can avoid a connotation that your group intends to be the only women's group with your scope (as opposed to "ProjectName Women" or "CityName Feminist Hackerspace"

Cons:

  • May need a nearly permanent subtitle
  • Not obvious in a passing reference that women are the intended audience

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